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Blair signs deal with France to pave way for new wave of nuclear reactors

Brendan Carlin , Telegraph
Tony Blair signalled his determination to order a new generation of nuclear power stations by signing a formal agreement yesterday that could lead to French companies building them.

The move could “definitely lead” to contracts for the French when the new atomic plants came to be built, British officials said privately.

The creation of the Franco-British Nuclear Forum, agreed at the Anglo-French summit in Paris, came as the Prime Minister once again indicated that Britain had to stay nuclear.

Despite insisting that he was not prejudging the energy review, to be published next month, Mr Blair made clear that approving a new wave of nuclear power stations would be an essential part of his legacy.
(10 June 2006)
Related from the UK Times: Brown’s backing clears way for a nuclear future.

Railroads Struggle to Ship Coal in U.S.

Bob Moen, Associated Press via Yahoo!News
…Power plants around the country have seen their coal stockpiles dwindle, mainly because of problems with shipping coal out of Wyoming and increasing worldwide demand for energy.

The result has been higher electric bills in some areas because power companies were forced to replace coal with more expensive natural gas to feed their plants.

“People call us the Saudi Arabia of coal. But if you don’t get it to the power plants, it doesn’t matter,” said Mike Grisso, executive director of the Alliance for Rail Competition, a shippers’ organization.

…Anthony Hatch, an independent transportation analyst in New York, said he believes railroads will meet future demands for shipping coal. But it will take time because of the enormous task of expanding an industry that until only a few years ago was abandoning track as its business dwindled.

…With plentiful coal reserves and alternative fuels still too costly or years away from becoming reality, coal is seen by many as the most practical means to meet the nation’s and world’s growing power needs.

“The economy is still rolling along so everybody expects production and demand to keep increasing,” Fred Freme, industry statistician with the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration. “It is the cheapest as far as electric generation goes.”
(9 June 2006)

Super Battery (capacitors)

Victor Limjoco, ScienCentral News
As our portable devices get more high-tech, the batteries that power them can seem to lag behind. But Joel Schindall and his team at M.I.T. plan to make long charge times and expensive replacements a thing of the past–by improving on technology from the past.

They turned to the capacitor, which was invented nearly 300 years ago. Schindall explains, “We made the connection that perhaps we could take an old product, a capacitor, and use a new technology, nanotechnology, to make that old product in a new way.”

Rechargable and disposable batteries use a chemical reaction to produce energy. “That’s an effective way to store a large amount of energy,” he says, “but the problem is that after many charges and discharges … the battery loses capacity to the point where the user has to discard it.

But capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery’s electrodes, so even today’s most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments on increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today’s batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

“It could be recharged many, many times perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and … it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours,” he says.
(8 June 2006)
Video available at original.

Malaysians urged to change energy use patterns

Bernama, Business Times (Malaysia)
MALAYSIANS need to change their energy consumption and production patterns in order to adapt to global challenges, Minister of Energy, Water and Communications Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik says.

The minister said energy security and sustainability, including ensuring a minimum impact on environment, will require everyone to play a crucial role so that “all of us can still enjoy these privileges in future”.

“The energy revolution that is characterised by the continued high prices of petroleum, requires that we all begin to give unprecedented emphasis on ensuring the security of our supplies, as well as the sustainability of these supplies,” he said at the the Malaysian Oil Scientists’ and Technologies’ Association annual dinner in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Dr Lim said the final commercial energy demand in Malaysia is expected to increase by 47 per cent by 2010. It has already increased by 31 per cent, to 1,632 petajoules in 2005 from 1,244 petajoules in 2000.
(10 June 2006)

Questions About the World’s Biggest Natural Gas Field

Dave, The Oil Drum
Without much fanfare, Qatar announced a moratorium on new development of the natural gas North Field basin, a decision that had actually been taken in 2005. At the same time, in a recent presentation by Matt Simmons entitled Tight Oil Supplies, we run into this intriguing slide (#44, big pdf warning).

This report will go into considerable detail about the future role of the North Field/South Pars natural gas field, it’s size and importance, the reasons for the moratorium and finally important questions about both the geology and proven reserves of the field. As Simmons notes in his slide, there is a “large degree of uncertainty regarding [the] true potential [of this field]”. The topic is important regarding the uncommon phrase “peak natural gas” on a global scale. As we know, natural gas production has already peaked in North America.

[TOD editor’s note, by Dave] Generously, Matt Simmons and SCI have given me permission to reference their report Simmons Oil Monthly – Qatar, by Robert A. Kessler, April 24, 2006. Matt wanted me to “alert readers that SCI made a major exception to their strict rules of only sending their institutional research to their institutional clients”. My thanks to Matt and SCI for making this report available. I believe it will appear soon on the Simmons & Company International website. I’ll do an update when that happens.] (9 June 2006)

Green bloggers on China

China, Coal and Green Leapfrogging by Alex Steffen at WorldChanging.

Pollution and the Chinese Future by Alex Steffen at WorldChanging.

Duh, China’s big by John McGrath at Gristmill.

(June 2006)